Egg Harbor Township, NJ Athletics Success adds to Community Pride
This is our sixth edition of the South Jersey High School Athletics Spotlight series and we take a closer look at Egg Harbor Township High School. Before the Holiday Break, we brought you inside Millville High School and Middle Township High School Athletics along with taking a closer look at Ocean City High School and Absegami High School plus insights on Mainland Regional Athletics. We will do similar profiles of other local High School Athletics here in South Jersey in the coming weeks.
Egg Harbor Township High School is one of the largest student populations in South Jersey and also has one of the more diverse student populations in the region with some of the best facilities in Atlantic County. EHT Athletics has brought a positive light to the Egg Harbor Township community in a few different sports including winning Cape Atlantic League Championships in Boys' Soccer and Girls' Field Hockey this past fall along with the 2021 Girls Outdoor Track winning the State Championship this past Spring. Also, just a few years ago the Egg Harbor Township Girls' Softball team had a dominant run of 47-2 during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
This on-the-field success by the Student-Athletes has been a reprieve that uplifts the morale of the school plus local community in a post-COVID Lockdowns world we are all living in. There has been a ton of new policies and mandates put in place for everyone to work through in order for sports to be played and for the Student-Athletes of Egg Harbor Township to overcome it all and find success in their sports is great to see.
EHT High School Athletic Director Kevin Rutledge is new to the South Jersey area and he has been impressed with all of the Student-Athletes, Coaches, and Parents who are a part of the Egg Harbor Township Eagles Community:
"Although we still have policies and mandates in place, I am so grateful we are able to return to competitive athletics. So many High School Athletes have trained their entire lives to represent their community at their specific sport and taking that platform (away from them due to the Pandemic lockdowns) after so many hours, weeks, and years of training is a devastating situation. As anyone will tell you throughout this pandemic, the impact on our athletes is immeasurable. EHT Athletics live to teach life lessons through sports; Athletics means something different to every person and our coaches understand that only Six to Seven percent of our athletes will go on to play college athletes so athletics must “be more.” It must be about building a well-rounded individual by using the experiences, the ups, and the downs, that give our coaches the teachable moments that show our young adults how to handle each and every unique experience, but more so how to improve every day. High School Coaches coach because of the love and passion for the sport, the kids, and the commitment to making their community a better place. When I speak with my coaches, more often than not they refer to them as “my kids” because they care about the person first. But nothing will beat the love and passion I see from our EHT parents. This year I have seen them tear up with pride, clap, cheer at the top of their lungs, or even be speechless while watching their children demonstrate their abilities individually or team accomplishments. Egg Harbor Township is a very close community; These parents are so supportive for not only their own children but their ‘extended children’ who grew up competing together side by side for as long as they can remember. This community is an exceptional example of sportsmanship and passion for their children."
EHT AD Kevin Rutledge spoke to 973 ESPN about moving his family from Maryland to South Jersey and what has stood out to him now being a part of the Egg Harbor Township High School Community:
"My family and I recently moved from Anne Arundel County, Maryland where I served as an Athletic Director for Nine years, most recently at Severna Park High School. There were slight differences between Maryland and New Jersey but for the most part, we all went through similar paths (because of COVID-19) to return students to the classroom and competitive athletic events. EHT has some of the most passionate and detail-oriented coaching staffs I have seen in my career. As everyone has seen over the past two years, it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of COVID but as more and more information and best practices become available, our coaching and medical staff have been able to keep our athletes competing and more importantly safe. One of the biggest changes from last year to this is also one of the larger challenges - allowing spectators. We are fortunate to have some of the best and biggest high school facilities in the area which affords us the opportunity to safely sit spectators and limit the distance between fans and our competing athletes. But people often focus on the participating athletes and fail to see the impact on the general student body. The EHT student section or as they refer to themselves “The Flock”, are the best in the business. They love their school, they love their community and it’s so important for our students to be able to support our programs and create positive high school memories from high school experiences."
You saw that EHT AD Kevin Rutledge spoke very highly of the Coaches at Egg Harbor Township multiple times and the work they have done with the Student-Athletes. One of those dedicated coaches is Girls' Field Hockey Team Head Coach Kristian Troster, who spoke to 973 ESPN about her time coaching the Girls' Field Hockey team and their rise to being Cape Atlantic League Champions:
"This is my 6th season at Egg Harbor Township and the first few years had ups and downs to them. We were always at least the middle of the pack in the CAL battling the powerhouse of Ocean City every year and battling it out with Mainland and Millville along with many others. However, I learned from some great coaches that know how to build programs that are consistently in the hunt and they said be patient and always be real with your athletes. 'Trust the process and stick to your instincts, the rules must be the same for everyone regardless of talent. I think that the first three years were those years where you work hard to develop your team culture, get your athletes to trust you, buy into the team goals, and believe in them and their talents. This season was by far our most successful, maybe ever, but these athletes put in a great amount of work over the summer and there has been a huge increase in athletes joining club programs and offseason training opportunities. In addition to these changes, I believe that our team culture had a huge role in the success of the program this year. These girls have an open mind, they listen, they try until they get it right, they help and support each other, and they have immense heart. Their will, effort, and heart made the difference in many games this year. These seniors have shown the underclassmen the way and they will have the ability to carry it on."
One of those Girls' Field Hockey Athletes at Egg Harbor Township is Jenna Gray, who was the winner of the 973 ESPN South Jersey High School Female Athlete of the 2021 Season. The team and individual success of the EHT Girls' Field Hockey Team along what the achievements of Boys' Soccer, Girls Outdoor Track, and Girls' Softball in recent years are impressive but all sports that traditionally do not get the recognition of other sports. Coach Kristian Troster spoke to 973 ESPN about the Athletics at Egg Harbor Township High School:
"I always feel like EHT (Athletics) is the underdog or quietly dangerous every year despite the success of many programs. We are extremely competitive and winning divisions, leagues, playoff games in numerous sports. Our student body and community support has definitely increased over the last three to four years. The FLOCK (student body fans) follows and attends many games both home and away for our sports teams. The relationships between the athletic teams as well as with the band/color guard has been established/fostered and support has now developed across extracurricular activities. Despite Covid, our school implemented live streaming so families, friends, and the community could continue to watch and support. And that support has only continued to increase this past year. I feel that the community and #ehtpride as we call it has been a huge result of the relationship and development from the (recreation) center and its youth programs. Those that run our rec center go above and beyond to support the coaches and athletes at the high school. They open their facilities to us, help us run camps, and are often the first stop for our athletes in the EHT community. Our district has also developed an initiative to further develop relationships with our students and with the community. They have established open houses for our middle school students to see what our great high school has to offer, began community days, as well as other outreach opportunities. This feeling of family and support across the board could not have come at a better time for these athletes and the community because COVID was hard on everyone of every age. To be able to get back to doing what you love and feeling the love from others makes it just that much sweeter. To be able to do what we did as a program this season was a blessing that we cherished every day we were able to be on the field and I am beyond proud as a coach of what my girls (the magical unicorns) were able to accomplish together this year. As a coach, the support of your team, fellow coaches, colleagues, students in my classes, and random people that see you shopping in the grocery store was a very new experience for me. My family and friends and close colleagues at work were always supportive, but this was on another level and I hope that every season moving forward is that way. I want for EHT field hockey as well as all sports teams to be the force to be reckoned with and the school that every parent of a student-athlete wants to send their son or daughter to because I truly believe we have remarkable teachers and academic programs as well as coaches at this school."
Another one of those Egg Harbor Township High School Coaches is Boys' Basketball Head Coach Cameron Bell. Bell is a Social Studies Teacher at EHT and he is a class of 1994 graduate at the High School, so he is very familiar with the school and its community. Coach Bell spoke to 973 ESPN about the EHT community support and his Boys' Varisty Team:
"Egg Harbor Township has a very passionate fan base and as an alumni and resident, it feels wonderful to have the support of our community. I’m personally lucky to have the type of support that I receive in EHT, as it comes from a very diverse cross-section of our community. That’s what I love about (Egg Harbor Township), the diversity and support. (The Boys' Basketball Team) are a tight group and have been together for a while, so what’s going on around them doesn’t impact them too much because they have each other. Their success is a byproduct of their hard work and unshakable confidence. The biggest difference (from last season) is that we had a full preseason; The protocols are basically the same, but you can feel the energy is different."
The picture is clear that Egg Harbor Township High School Student-Athletes have the support of the community, belief, and commitment from their Coaches, along with a great environment that allows them the most opportunities to be successful. EHT Athletic Director Kevin Rutledge spoke to 973 ESPN about the short and long term goals for the school and the Athletics Department:
"My long and short term goals will be accomplished in different ways but are one in the same: To provide positive, quality, educational value-based athletic experiences for the entire EHT community. As I work through this first year at EHT (High School), I am listening and learning from every interaction over these past few months with every possible stakeholder from students in the hallway (to) student-athletes (along with) parents and alumni. I hope to provide our coaches with the tools and knowledge they need to meet and exceed the needs of our community. Providing opportunities for ALL of our students to participate is our top priority. Whether that be in activities, intramural sports, varsity sports, or one of our brand new Special Olympics partnered Unified Sports Programs – Our department's priorities are guided by building the person first. Teaching life lessons through sports allows our coaches to teach the values and character that lead to success in the classroom, on the field, court, mat or track."